The questions for the most part were standard, asked in a mundane, oft-times repetitive manner, extending “thank yous” by rote, not at all sincere, seemingly layered with a veiled undertone, as if she was beneath him, not as worthy. She remained attentive throughout, sparing with her inquisitor, engaging, pulling away, touching my hand, shoulder, side when in doubt, making eye-contact, searching for reassurance that she was answering correctly. She was.
The questioner’s name escapes me. I still see a male lawyer, situated on the other side of the conference table, barely making eye contact, most times staying within the rules, pausing long enough to allow objections, then proceeding, lobbing his next question across the table, looking down periodically, checking what appeared to be a list of questions situated in front of him. Inching forward, progressing; posing the next question, then the next, then the next.
“Did you have any hobbies before the accident that you can’t do now?”
There was nothing unique about his question, nor any of the questions he had posed previously. Questions which invited few objections on my part, causing me to reposition my place in the chair, fight an unexpected visitor – boredom – recounting the questions asked, estimating the time we had been in the room, seeing the new question scroll before my eyes, typed in script – as slowly, as fast – as the questioner posed them. Fighting sleep, turning to the client, leaning, wondering why she had not answered the lawyer’s last question. A pause was followed by the bowing of her head. A tear came to rest – pooled and suspended – on the edge of the orbit of her left eye.
“He asked, ‘did you have any hobbies before the accident that you can’t do now, ’” as if my repeating the question made a difference. She didn’t turn my way this time, as she had done earlier in the deposition. I wondered whether I should have spoken louder, maybe she didn’t hear me. Her bowing became more severe, burrowing now, her chin against her chest, the singular tear now accompanied by others, pooling, mounting, collecting, their numbers caused an avalanche, flowing over and downward, cascading. She didn’t bother to wipe, as if frozen in place; communicating silently, without words, motionless, conveying she understood the question. He didn’t see our communication, oblivious; her silence didn’t mean she didn’t hear, didn’t mean she didn’t understand.
“Do you want me to repeat the question, ma’am?”
Father Time stood over her left shoulder, counting, he too oblivious to what was occurring, he, refusing to miss a beat – for a moment, for a second – ignoring that he had done so consistently. When grief strikes; when a child dies unexpectedly; when anyone of us become unexplainably embarrassed by unexpected life events – deviating, stopping the count, providing an exception to life’s dance. Such was the practice, but not this time, for some reason he continued to count – counting, counting, counting – he did. “One-thousand, one; one-thousand, two; one-thousand, three” – methodically cataloging time, moving his left hand upward, downward, upward again.
“Can we take a brief break,” I inquired, not fully understanding the client’s pause.
“No, I am going to insist on obtaining an answer to my question before breaking,” was the lawyer’s response.
“One-thousand, four; one-thousand, five; one-thousand, six,” was the count. Father Time bent over, gazing directly into her eyes, unperturbed by tears occupation – counting, counting, counting – closing his eyes to keep his concentration, refusing to freeze for a moment, a second, ignoring Mother Nature’s whisper, touch, explicit words granting permission, “this one time, this one exception.” “One-thousand, seven; one-thousand, eight”, he said. He said. Yes, he said.
“Ma’am I going to insist on an answer.”
I moved forward in my chair, touching her left hand. She moved forward, not in my direction but his, correcting her posture, raising her chin from her chest, looking directly his eyes, answering, briefly, succinctly, “Yes, sir, there is.”
He smiled, knowing full-well he had her. She was his. Looking up from his typed questions, placing his pen down on the table, deviating from his normal procedure, locking his eyes onto hers, no longer practicing by rote, excited that he was about to have his Perry Mason moment. The birthing of a lawyer, the making of a man, his moment, his time, a well-placed question which invited unexpected tears, the time was his. The hairs on his hands stood in salute, memorializing the moment, paying tribute. His eyes now sparkled. Father Time continued his persistent count, eyes closed, head back, concentrating, recording life’s moments, knowing full-well his decision not to stop the count for a second, a moment, was a wise one – “One-thousand, eleven; one-thousand, twelve; one-thousand, thirteen.” He said. Yes, he said.
Mother Nature stepped back as if now granting permission, allowing her answer, insisting on no further interruptions. Smiling, crossing her legs, placing her hands in her lap, at peace, then extending her right arm, pointing in a gentle manner, imploring the client to continue.
“I only have one hobby.”
“And that is?”
He, that lawyer, immediately picked up his pen, lowered his head, looking for another question to ask. Mother Nature blew sand in his eyes, causing temporary blindness. He, Father Time, attempted to stop his count. Mother Nature blew a cold, stiff wind his way, isolating him, forcing him to continue. The lawyer’s hand recoiled, pulling back, turning away, as if embarrassed by his own question, not wanting to hear her answer, wishing that she stop. She didn’t stop. She didn’t.
“I only have one hobby, sex. I like sex. Since the accident I haven’t been able to do my hobby. It is frustrating. Do you want me to explain?”
He … no, no … not Father Time … the lawyer – acted if he accidentally walked into the room witnessing his parents’ having sex. He acted as if he was trying to explain to his first wife why he looked too long, why he ignored her pulling him to come along; never realizing she walked away, drove off, leaving him to ogle at “that woman”. He demonstrated the same emotions he showed when he answered honestly, but incorrectly, in his eighth grade Sex Education class, thinking he was right, insisting – “Masturbation does cause blindness.”
One who had practiced by rote, now sat waving with both hands, erecting a stop sign, trying to take his question back, praying for time to stop, wishing he could have a do-over, never appreciating the honest answer. Fumbling, not able to form his words, casting demons, looking about the room for help – none me – not the court reporter, she was too busy giggling; wanting a time-out, even though he detested time-outs, since the time his third grade teacher sent him to time-out for talking too much. “No, you need not explain further,” said without an explanation point, or a period; an incomplete sentence, scattered words, juking, dangling, hanging in suspended animation, a dangling participle indeed.
She ignored him, gifting him instead. Explaining why she liked sex, telling secrets, moving her left hand over her right hand, subconsciously touching her neck, consciously using words to explain how her injuries prevented her from engaging in her one hobby. Nothing perverse, blowing a breath of honesty about the room. Words stated without grandeur, without embarrassment, allowing the persistent partner, anger, to co-exist. Anger openly busied itself by summoning tears, pooling them together, pushing them over – face – neck – dress – onto the table.
The hairs on the lawyer’s hands now curled inward, contorted by her words, and the stark realization his Perry Mason moment was not to be. Instead of joining in our laughter and smiles, he wanted to flee.
The silent mantel he was, communicating without words, communicating none-the-less; lifting his pen, marking through the remaining questions, thanking the witness, immediately terminating the deposition. Moving upward, looking downward, hurriedly gathering and grabbing his pre-prepared list of questions, revealing a face scant of smile, devoid of laughter, moving around the conference table, exiting faster than he had entered earlier. Father Time continued life’s count, one eye open, the other eye closed, counting, counting, counting; never turning as the lawyer beat his retreat, pretending not to see Mother Nature exit at the same time, following, pulling at the tail of the lawyer’s coat, winking at Father Time as she passed, granting permission for the count to continue, for life’s dance to continue.
“Did I do alright?”
“Oh yeah, you did just fine … Only one hobby, huh?”
“Yes sir, only … one hobby!”